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By Mallika Mitra
August 11, 2021
Young male choosing a laptop at electronic store
Getty Images

We're well into August, which means it's time to start thinking about... holiday shopping?

Yes, you read that right. Strategists at investment bank Raymond James expect the supply chain issues currently plaguing retailers — like factory shutdowns, overwhelmed ports and shipping shortages — to accelerate in the second half of 2021, according to a recent report. Procrastinating on your gift shopping may be even riskier than usual this year.

Many of the supply chain issues have to do with COVID-19 slowing manufacturing supply in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, but it could become more widespread as the year progresses, Tavis McCourt, institutional equity strategist at Raymond James, tells Money.

"Once they get their populations fully vaccinated it should no longer be an issue, but that's very unlikely to happen before Christmas," McCourt says. Plus, a lot of the products for the holiday season (L.O.L. Surprise Dolls, anyone?) are made and shipped between now and the end of October, he adds.

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While the more recent spread of the delta variant is impacting the movement of goods around the world, slow shipping and shortages are nothing new.

“Supply chain issues have been front and center for retailers from the very beginning of the shutdowns," says Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insights at the National Retail Federation.

Retailers like Walmart and Amazon have been scrambling to get space on shipping containers, the Wall Street Journal reported. They're also still facing the aftermath of when a giant shipping container got stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal for six days in March, including delays and increased prices, as Money previously reported. On top of all this, there's a global chip shortage affecting manufacturing — and making it tough to buy everything from Xbox consoles to smartphones.

In many cases, retailers are adjusting by bringing in goods early or via air rather than shipping, Cullen says. (Sending goods by air is more expensive, and retailers may not have a choice but to pass that cost along to shoppers, she adds.)

So what can you do to make sure you don't come up short when it's time to give to your loved ones? Don't wait until the last minute. It could take longer for items to reach you, and you might need to hunt around for them even more than you're used to, Cullen says.

You should also pay attention to what retailers are saying about what's in stock and where items are available. Retailers will often include in online listings how much of something is in stock, or if the item is only available in a physical store, which can help you plan ahead to make sure you can get your hands on the gifts your family and friends want.

Remember: It might be harder to score certain items this year than it has been in the past. Starting now certainly won't hurt.

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